About gynocentrism

Gynocentrism (n.) refers to a dominant focus on women’s needs and wants relative to men’s needs and wants. This can happen in the context of cultural conventions, institutional policies, and in gendered relationships.1   

[see here for more dictionary definitions of gynocentrism]

Introduction

Cultural gynocentrism arose in Medieval Europe during a period cross-cultural influences and momentous changes in gendered customs. Beginning in the 12th century, European society birthed an intersection of Arabic poetry elevating and venerating women, aristocratic courting trends, the Marian cult, along with the imperial patronage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie De Champagne who together crafted the military notion of chivalry into a notion of servicing ladies, a practice otherwise known as ‘courtly love.’

Courtly love was enacted by minstrels, playrights and troubadours, and especially via hired romance-writers like Chrétien de Troyes and Andreas Capellanus who laid down a model of romantic fiction that is still the biggest grossing genre of literature today. That confluence of factors generated the cultural conventions that continue to drive gynocentrism today.

Gynocentrism as a cultural phenomenon

The primary elements of gynocentric culture, as we experience it today, are derived from practices originating in medieval society such as feudalism, chivalry and courtly love that continue to inform contemporary society in subtle ways. Such gynocentric patters constitute a “sexual feudalism,” as attested by female writers like Lucrezia Marinella who in 1600 AD recounted that women of lower socioeconomic classes were treated as superiors by men who acted as servants or beasts born to serve them, or by Modesta Pozzo who in 1590 wrote;

“don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.”2

The golden casket above depicting scenes of servile behaviour toward women were typical of courtly love culture of the Middle Ages. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man being led around by a neck halter, his hands clasped in a position of subservience.

It’s clear that much of what we today call gynocentrism was invented in the Middle Ages with the cultural practices of romantic chivalry and courtly love. In 12th century Europe, feudalism served as the basis for a new model for love in which men were to play the role of vassal to women who played the role of an idealized Lord.

C.S. Lewis, back in the middle of the 20th Century, referred to this historical revolution as “the feudalisation of love,” and stated that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. “Compared with this revolution,” states Lewis, “the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature.”3 Lewis further states;

“Everyone has heard of courtly love, and everyone knows it appeared quite suddenly at the end of the eleventh century at Languedoc. The sentiment, of course, is love, but love of a highly specialized sort, whose characteristics may be enumerated as Humility, Courtesy, and the Religion of Love. The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady’s lightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim. Here is a service of love closely modelled on the service which a feudal vassal owes to his lord. The lover is the lady’s ‘man’. He addresses her as midons, which etymologically represents not ‘my lady’ but ‘my lord’. The whole attitude has been rightly described as ‘a feudalisation of love’. This solemn amatory ritual is felt to be part and parcel of the courtly life.” 4

With the advent of (initially courtly) women being elevated to the position of ‘Lord’ in intimate relationships, and with this general sentiment diffusing to the masses and across much of the world today, we are justified in talking of a gynocentric cultural complex that affects, among other things, relationships between men and women. Further, unless evidence of widespread gynocentric culture can be found prior to the Middle Ages, then  gynocentrism is precisely 800 years old. In order to determine if this thesis is valid we need to look further at what we mean by “gynocentrism”.

The term gynocentrism has been in circulation since the 1800’s, with the general definition being “focused on women; concerned with only women.”5 From this definition we see that gynocentrism could refer to any female-centered practice, or to a single gynocentric act carried out by one individual. There is nothing inherently wrong with a gynocentric act (eg. celebrating Mother’s Day) , or for that matter an androcentric act (celebrating Father’s Day). However when a given act becomes instituted in the culture to the exclusion of other acts we are then dealing with a hegemonic custom — i.e. such is the relationship custom of elevating women to the position of men’s social, moral or spiritual superiors.

Author of Gynocentrism Theory Adam Kostakis has attempted to expand the definition of gynocentrism to refer to “male sacrifice for the benefit of women” and “the deference of men to women,” and he concludes; “Gynocentrism, whether it went by the name honor, nobility, chivalry, or feminism, its essence has gone unchanged. It remains a peculiarly male duty to help the women onto the lifeboats, while the men themselves face a certain and icy death.”6

While we can agree with Kostakis’ descriptions of assumed male duty, the phrase gynocentric culture more accurately carries his intention than gynocentrism alone. Thus when used alone in the context of this website gynocentrism refers to part or all of gynocentric culture, which is defined here as any culture instituting rules for gender relationships that benefit females at the expense of males across a broad range of measures.

At the base of gynocentric culture lies the practice of enforced male sacrifice for the benefit of women. If we accept this definition we must look back and ask whether male sacrifices throughout history were always made for the sake women, or alternatively for the sake of some other primary goal? For instance, when men went to die in vast numbers in wars, was it for women, or was it rather for Man, King, God and Country? If the latter we cannot then claim that this was a result of some intentional gynocentric culture, at least not in the way I have defined it here. If the sacrifice isn’t intended directly for the benefit women, even if women were occasional beneficiaries of male sacrifice, then we are not dealing with gynocentric culture.

Male utility and disposability strictly “for the benefit of women” comes in strongly only after the advent of the 12th century gender revolution in Europe – a revolution that delivered us terms like gallantry, chivalry, chivalric love, courtesy, damsels, romance and so on. From that period onward gynocentric practices grew exponentially, culminating in the demands of today’s feminist movement. In sum, gynocentrism (ie. gynocentric culture) was a patchy phenomenon at best before the middle ages, after which it became ubiquitous.

With this in mind it makes little sense to talk of gynocentric culture starting with the industrial revolution a mere 200 years ago (or 100 or even 30 yrs ago), or of it being two million years old as some would argue. We are not only fighting two million years of genetic programming; our culturally constructed problem of gender inequity is much simpler to pinpoint and to potentially reverse. All we need do is look at the circumstances under which gynocentric culture first began to flourish and attempt to reverse those circumstances. Specifically, that means rejecting the illusions of romantic love (feudalised love), along with the practices of misandry, male shaming and servitude that ultimately support it.

La Querelle des Femmes, and advocacy for women

The Querelle des Femmes translates as the “quarrel about women” and amounts to what we might today call a gender-war. The querelle had its beginning in twelfth century Europe and finds its culmination in the feminist-driven ideology of today (though some authors claim, unconvincingly, that the querelle came to an end in the 1700s).

The basic theme of the centuries-long quarrel revolved, and continues to revolve, around advocacy for the rights, power and status of women, and thus Querelle des Femmes serves as the originating title for gynocentric discourse.

To place the above events into a coherent timeline, chivalric servitude toward women was elaborated and given patronage first under the reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1137-1152) and instituted culturally throughout Europe over the subsequent 200 year period. After becoming thus entrenched on European soil there arose the Querelle des Femmes which refers to the advocacy culture that arose for protecting, perpetuating and increasing female power in relation to men that continues, in an unbroken tradition, in the efforts of contemporary feminism.7

Writings from the Middle Ages forward are full of testaments about men attempting to adapt to the feudalisation of love and the serving of women, along with the emotional agony, shame and sometimes physical violence they suffered in the process. Gynocentric chivalry and the associated querelle have not received much elaboration in men’s studies courses to-date, but with the emergence of new manuscripts and quality English translations it may be profitable to begin blazing this trail.8

References

1. Wright, P., What’s in a suffix? taking a closer look at the word gyno–centrism
2. Modesta Pozzo, The Worth of Women: their Nobility and Superiority to Men
3. C.S. Lewis, Friendship, chapter in The Four Loves, HarperCollins, 1960
4. C.S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, Oxford University Press, 1936
5. Dictionary.com – Gynocentric
6. Adam Kostakis, Gynocentrism Theory – (Published online, 2011). Although Kostakis assumes gynocentrism has been around throughout recorded history, he singles out the Middle Ages for comment: “There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism… One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.”
7. Joan Kelly, Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes (1982), reprinted in Women, History and Theory, UCP (1984)
8. The New Male Studies Journal has published thoughtful articles touching on the history and influence of chivalry in the lives of males.

Gynocentrism As A Narcissistic Pathology – Part 2

Article forthcoming, June/July 2023

 

Photo credit Princess And The Pea – by permission of visual artist Jelena Kostic, available for purchase at  https://www.saatchiart.com/jelenakostic

Custody of children in 1896

The following is an excerpt from Bax’s The Legal Subjection of Men (1896) (p.16)

CUSTODY OF CHILDREN

It has always in England been laid down as a fundamental law based on public policy, that the custody of children and their education is a duty incumbent on the father. It is said to be so fundamental that he is not permitted to waive his exercise of the right by pre-nuptial contract. (See the Agar v. Ellis Case.)

This rule of the Common Law of England is of course in harmony with the policy of all Europe and Christendom, as well as with the historic conditions of the European social organisation, if not with the primal instincts of the race.

Nevertheless, fundamental and necessary as the rule may be, the pro-feminist magistrates and judges of England are bent apparently on ignoring it with a light heart. They have not merely retained the old rule that the custody of infants of tender years remains with the mother until the child attains the age of seven. But they go much further than that. As a matter of course, and without considering in the least the interests of the child, or of society at large, they hand over the custody and education of all the children to the litigant wife, whenever she establishes –an easy thing to do– a flimsy and often farcical case of technical “cruelty.”

The victim husband has the privilege of maintaining the children as well as herself out of his property or earnings, and has the added consolation of knowing that they will brought up to detest him.

Even in the extreme case where a deserting wife takes with her the children of the marriage, there is practically no redress for the husband if in narrow circumstances. The police courts will not interfere. The divorce court, as already stated, is expensive to the point of prohibition. In any case the husband has to face a tribunal already prejudiced in favour of the female, and the attendant scandal of a process will probably have no other result than to injure his children and their future prospects in life.

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See also: Maternal Preference in 19th Century American Law

Gynocentrism and female narcissism

The following articles explore the role of narcissism in the context of gynocentric culture & behaviour. This emphasis is not aimed to reduce narcissism to an all-female pathology, but to demonstrate the ways in which female narcissism may lean toward gynocentric modes of expression, much as males demonstrate narcissism in typically gendered ways.

Articles on gynocentrism & narcissism by Peter Wright:

Formal studies in female narcissism by Ava Green:

Narcissism Exaggerates Baseline Hypergamy

Many in the men’s issues community have observed pronounced hypergamous behaviors among women.  While some commenters pose reasonable evolutionary hypotheses for the behavior, there may be another cause at work – narcissism.

Society’s encouragement of the sexes into quasi social classes, with men as chivalric class and women as freewheeling nobles, has generated a degree of narcissism among women in recent times. Acquired Situational Narcissism is a psychological state arising with acquired status, as in the examples of academic experts, politicians, pop singers, actors – and in this case women who, in modern society, are taught that they possess high worth, dignity, value, purity, status, esteem and reputation simply for being women. This psychological disposition works to multiply the effect of hypergamy beyond what evolutionary models would require.

Among high narcissistic individuals, studies have found higher incidence of hypergamous behavior, indicating that hypergamy is not unleashed by a culture of sexual liberation alone; it may also be the result of an acquired social class narcissism that says “I deserve.”

Excerpts from narcissism studies:

A third strand of evidence concerns narcissists’ relationship choices. Because humans are a social species, relationship choices are an important feature of situation selection. Narcissists are more likely to choose relationships that elevate their status over relationships that cultivate affiliation. For example, narcissists are keener on gaining new partners than on establishing close relationships with existing ones (Wurst et al., 2017). They often demonstrate an increased preference for high-status friends (Jonason & Schmitt, 2012) and trophy partners (Campbell, 1999), perhaps because they can bask in the reflected glory of these people. In sum, narcissists are more likely to select social environments that allow them to display their performances publicly, ideally in competition with others. These settings are potentially more accepting and reinforcing of narcissistic status strivings.

[Source: The “Why” and “How” of Narcissism: A Process Model of Narcissistic Status Pursuit]

Consistent with the self-orientation model, Study 5 provided an empirical demonstration of the mediational role of self enhancement in narcissists’ preference for perfect rather than caring romantic partners. Furthermore, these potential romantic partners were more likely to be seen as a source of self-esteem to the extent that they provided the narcissist with a sense of popularity and importance (i.e., social status). Narcissists’ preference for romantic partners reflects a strategy for interpersonal self-esteem regulation. Narcissists also were attracted to self-oriented romantic partners to the extent that these others were viewed as similar. The mediational roles of self-enhancement and similarity were independent. That is, narcissists’ romantic preferences were driven both by a desire to gain self-esteem and a desire to associate with similar others.

[Source: Narcissism and romantic attraction]

Narcissism has been linked with the materialistic pursuit of wealth and symbols that convey high status (Kasser, 2002; Rose, 2007). This quest for status extends to relationship partners. Narcissists seek romantic partners who offer self- enhancement value either as sources of fawning admiration, or as human trophies (e.g., by possessing impressive wealth or exceptional physical beauty) (Campbell, 1999; Tanchotsrinon, Maneesri, & Campbell, 2007)

Source: The Handbook of Narcissism And Narcissistic Personality Disorders

Dozens more quotations could be added, however the point is obvious: self-enhancement strategies of both narcissism and hypergamy share overlapping features.

The rise of narcissistic behavior in women is receiving increased attention from academia in recent years, particularly with the addition of new variants to the lexicon such as communal narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism, which are considered female dominated modes of expressing narcissism.

*Note: A more in-depth survey of narcissism variants among women, and their implications, will be published in the forthcoming New Male Studies mid-year (2023).

Gynocentrism in China – by Ping Zhu

The following excerpt is from Ping Zhu’s book Gender and Subjectivities in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Literature and Culture (p.39-41). Zhu’s exploration indicates that Chinese gynocentrism cannot be reduced to a universal, spontaneous reflex of biology but was instead crafted, ideologically speaking, with the help of cherry-picked details from occidental gynocentrism which were subsequently adapted by Chinese writers. It should be noted that any Chinese expression of cultural gynocentrism, arising from these mostly literary efforts, is miniscule in comparison to the exaggerated gynocentric traditions that have characterized parts of the Occident and especially America over the last two centuries.

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Gynocentrism in China

By Ping Zhu

The early versions of gynocentrism contain some prototypes of gender consciousness within the framework of Chinese tradition. Although these indigenous cultural imaginations of gynocentrism in classical Chinese literature crystallized Chinese literati’s early “feminist” thoughts, they were spontaneous and did little to alter the fundamentals underlying the gender hierarchy. From the late nineteenth century, new forms of gynocentrism started to blossom in response to Western imperialism. Kang Youwei (1858–1927) was one of the earliest Chinese intellectuals who tried to challenge the presumption of Western gender and racial theories so as ultimately to change the inferior positioning of Chinese culture. In The Book of Great Harmony (Datong shu), completed during Kang’s exile in India after the failure of the 1898 Reform, he ascribed the progress of civilization to feminine endeavor:

Therefore men who seek food by hunting the animals are like the
nomadic and free Mongolians and Huns, who were indeed strong.
Women who stay at home and monitor the ancestral sacrifice are like
the Six Dynasties and the Southern Song dynasty, which were content
to retain sovereignty over a part of the state and finally were occupied by and subject to others; they were indeed weak; yet civilizations spring
from the weak nations and not the strong states. (175)

Kang regarded civilization as mainly a domestic, and thus feminine, matter. Because women’s sphere was traditionally domestic, “it is certain that all crafts and tools are invented by women” (175). For Kang Youwei, conquering by power, a masculine impulse, was an aberration of the axiom: “The violation of the weak by the strong force is a barbaric act, and is prohibited by the universal principle!” (172). Kang’s unprecedented exaltation of the female gender manifests his anxiety to reverse the unfavorable position of Chinese culture in the predominant Western racial theory. Kang’s unfaltering confidence in Chinese culture made him draw the conclusion that the weaker and feminine nations were actually superior in terms of civilization. His theory can be regarded as the earliest version of modern gynocentrism that resulted from China’s encounter with the West. Although the confidence in Chinese culture was greatly undermined, if not completely lost, during the New Culture Movement, a significant number of Chinese intellectuals still used Kang’s approach to challenge the gender premise in the racial theory to seek national empowerment.

Later Chinese intellectuals creatively cherry-picked the useful elements in Western gender and racial theories to form their own propositions of gynocentrism. Modern Chinese sexologist Xian’s (no known dates) “Sexual Selection” (Xingze) is the first full-length essay to advocate gynocentrism in modern China.9 ’s essay originally appeared in the fifth issue of Learning (Xueyi) magazine in 1921; it was later reprinted in Mei Sheng’s Collected Discussions of the Chinese Women Question (Zhongguo fun ü wenti taolunji) as the opening essay of the section “Question of the two sexes” (Liangxing wenti). “Sexual Selection” was divided into six parts: (1) female selection; (2) male selection; (3) the fall of women; (4) women’s liberation; (5) the personalities of men and women; and (6) the significance of liberation. The concept of “sexual selection” originally appeared in Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859).10 Following Darwin, Xian argued that sexual selection, as a form of “struggle for existence,” was the main reason for evolution. Sexual selection motivated competition among males, the result of which was that the strongest men could produce more offspring, thus improving the species. Evoking American botanist and sociologist Lester F. Ward’s (1841–1913) “Theory of Gynocentrism,” proposed: “The origin of life is female, the continuation of life is female, the primary biological body is female” (6).11 For , men participated in sexual selection only as subordinate agents: “In order to have the participation of a heterogeneous element to mutate, the female separated a part of herself, hence there is the derivative, dependent male” (6). Males, according to , only provided the materials for the evolution of the species; it was the females who controlled the process and selected the materials.

Xian believed that gynocentrism was key to the evolution of the species and the mandate of female selection was inscribed in the instinctual nature of heterosexual love. Since males’ sexual desires were stronger than their survival desires, they had to faithfully fulfill the mandate of nature to court females despite all the pains and risks (10). This gave females the right of selection in the matter of sexual love. In the world of biology, female selection was “a supreme right” and their will should be “absolutely free” (12). Xian asserted that as compared to fickle males, females were more stable, so female selection helped to steer the evolutionary trajectory of a species while steadily improving it. “Female selection helps to develop males, whereas male selection will lead only to the downfall of females” (16). It follows that men would evolve only when they were under female control. repudiated the practice of male-centrism as an aberration in the process of evolution due to men’s selfishness.

Using China as an example, showed the dismal consequences of thwarting the natural right of female selection by allowing aberrant male selection to take over: the production of weaker offspring (18). accused the patriarchal society of smothering the potential of women. In the era of male selection, the arbitrary criteria imposed on women by men led to the downfall of the former, as the physical and psychical ability of women kept dwindling. refuted the popular masculinist viewpoint that reduced females to children or not-yet-evolved males. He argued that the wider pelvis of female was not a sign of regression, but a sign of evolution, since the wider pelvis could only be found in higher species. believed that if women were liberated, that is, if women were given total freedom to carry out sexual selection and realize their moral potential and independence, it would greatly benefit the species. At the end of the essay, beseeched men to be less selfish and women to realize they were also human beings, so that under the mutual goal of species’ evolution, male and female sexual selections could be harmonized.

Xian’s theory of gynocentrism was not only a subversion of the patrilineal system, but also departed from the prevalent view of sex equality during Republican China. Women were endowed with powerful agency, permitting them to select men and dominate the evolutionary course of the species. Xian was certainly not the first to apply the theory of sexual selection to empower women during the debate over Chinese woman question. For example, Luo Jialun’s (1897–1969) well-known editorial “Women’s Liberation” (Fun ü jiefang) was published two years earlier, in October 1919, in New Tide (Xinchao), a leading journal for the New Culture advocates. Luo’s essay promoted sexual equality but it also contained arguments reminiscent of Xian’s gynocentrism: “In the era of sexual selection, men were always dominated by women! The female constitution is actually stronger than that of the male” (4). Through the appropriation of Darwin’s scientific theory, women were invested with a sublime power in sexual relationships.

Another avid advocate of “gynocentrism” during the Republican Era was Zhang Jingsheng (1888–1970), who was an active participant in the debate on new sexual morality during the 1920s. Zhang put forward his “New Gynocentrism” (Xin nüxing zhongxin lun) in his 1925 book The Beautiful View of Life (Mei de rensheng guan). Zhang
believed that there were distinct masculine traits and feminine traits in both males and females. The masculine traits represented the inferior national character, while the feminine traits represented the superior national character. Because the feminine traits were superior, Zhang predicted that women would possess mighty power in the future. Zhang Jingsheng’s rationale of new gynocentrism was not limited to the feminine power in sexual relationships, but in all aspects of social affairs: “In the future, women’s influence will exist in universal love, genuine beauty, and the spirit of sacrifice in a general sense” (162). According to Zhang, this new gynocentrism was the remedy to the problems of a male-centric society, in which “emotion was replaced by reason, beauty was replaced by pragmatism, and the spirit of sacrifice was replaced by selfish narcissism” (162). Zhang encouraged the new women to become “lovers, beauties, and heroines” (166), the three roles that women inherently performed well from his point of view; only then would men, and the whole society, understand love, beauty, and the spirit of sacrifice.

Compared with Xian’s gynocentrism, Zhang Jingsheng’s championing of the feminine power was more grounded in a romanticized and hybrid model of heterosexualism, one that was different from the Enlightenment model of heterosexualism due to its emphasis on “aesthetic response” and “emotion” (Leary 79). By upholding essentialized feminine qualities, Zhang had “made beautification into an ethical obligation” (Leary 81). Zhang Jingsheng’s ideal “new woman” was one that combined the stereotypes of white bourgeois women and Confucian women. The new woman, according to Zhang, should both know how to use sexual favor to manipulate men (162), and be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of love (165). From a progressive feminist point of view, it is hard to say whether Zhang’s new woman was empowered or disempowered in this paradoxical constitution. But it illustrates that the discourse on the new woman in modern China should not be viewed simply as result of a colonial encounter, but also as a reinvention of tradition which bears “China’s own distinct history” (Judge 2008, 7). In contrast, Xian’s gynocentrism was mainly based on the model of Western bourgeois women, who putatively participated in sexual relationships from an equal or more superior standing.

Note:
[11] . Japanese translators Sakai Tosihiko and Yamakawa Kikui translated parts of Lester Ward’s Pure Sociology and renamed it to “Gynecocentrism” in 1916. This book had immediately caught the attention of Chinese intellectuals. Li Da’s (1890–1966) translation of Gynecocentrism (nüxing zhongxin shuo) was published by Shangwu Yinshuguan in 1922; and Xia Mianzun’s (1886–1946) translation was published by Shanghai Minzhi Shuju in 1924 and reprinted in 1925.

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Socialism And Feminism – by Correa Moylan Walsh (1917)

The following volume is from Correa Moylan Walsh’s 3-volume set on the topic of socialism and feminism. In it he delves deeply into the rise of feminism, and its cross-fertilization with socialist ideas, which provide a useful snapshot of gender politics at the time of his writing (1917). – PW

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Socialism and feminism – by Correa Moylan Walsh

American Woman and Her Dutiful Husband — Observations by Max O’Rell 1903

The following essay on the status of American women was published in the year 1903 by culture critic Max O’Rell. – PW

 

THE AMERICAN WOMAN—I

A new coat-of-arms for America—The American woman—Her ways—The liberty she enjoys—’Oh, please make me an American woman!’

If I were asked to suggest a new coat-of-arms for the United States of America, I would propose a beautiful, bright, intelligent-looking woman, under the protection of an eagle spreading its wings over her, with the motto: Place aux Dames—’Honour to the Ladies’; or, if you prefer a freer translation, ‘Make room for the Women.’

The Government of the American people is not a republic, it is not a monarchy: it is a gynarchy, a government by the women for the women, a sort of occult power behind the scenes that rules the country.

It has often been said that a wife is what a husband makes her. I believe that the women of a nation are what the men of that nation make them. Therefore, honour to the men of the United States for having produced that modern national ideal — the American woman.

I have been six times all over the United States. I have spent about three years of my life in America, travelling from New York to San Francisco, from British Columbia to Louisiana. If there is an impression that becomes a deeper and deeper conviction every time that I return to that country, it is that the most interesting woman in the world is the American woman.

Now, let us compare her with the women of Europe. The English woman, when beautiful, is an ideal symphony, an incomparable statue, but too often a statue. The French woman is the embodiment of suppleness and gracefulness, more fascinating by her manner than by either her face or figure.

The Roman woman, with her gorgeous development, suggests the descendant of the proud mother of the Gracchi. The American woman is a combination, an ensemble.

I have never seen in America an absolutely, helplessly plain woman. She is always in the possession of a redeeming ‘something’ which saves her. She may be ever so homely (as the Americans say), she looks intelligent, a creature that has been allowed to think for herself, that has never been sat upon. And I know no sight more pleasing than an elderly American woman, with her white hair, that makes her look like a Louis XV. marquise, and an expression which reflects the respect she has inspired during a well and usefully spent life.

When women were born, a fairy attended the birth of every one of them. Each woman received a special gift. The American woman arriving late, the fairies gathered together and decided to make her a present of part of all the attributes conferred on all the other women. The result is that she has the smartness and the bright look of a French woman, and the shapely, sculptural lines of an English woman. Ah! but, added to that, she has a characteristic trait peculiarly her own, an utter absence of affectation, a naturalness of bearing which makes her unique, a national type. There is not in the world a woman to match her in a drawing-room. There she stands, among the women of all nationalities, a silhouette bien découpée, herself, a queen.

Allowed from the tenderest age almost every liberty, accustomed to take the others, she is free, easy, perfectly natural, with the consciousness of her influence, her power; able by her intelligence and education to enjoy all the intellectual pleasures of life, and by her keen powers of observation and her native adaptability to fit herself for all the conditions of life; an exquisite mixture of a coquette without affectation and a blue-stocking without spectacles or priggishness; the only woman, however beautiful and learned she may be, with whom man feels perfectly at his ease—a sort of fascinating good fellow, retaining all the best attributes of womanhood.

Now, if this should sound like an outburst of enthusiasm, please excuse me. I owe to American women such pleasant, never-to-be-forgotten hours that on merely hearing the mention of the American woman I take off my hat.

Of all the women in the world, the American woman is the one who receives the best attentions at the hands of men. The Frenchman, it is true, is the slave of his womankind, but he expects her to be his thorough partner—I mean, to share with him his labours as well as his pleasures. The American man is the most devoted and hard-working husband in the world. The poor, dear fellow! He works, and he works, and he works, and the beads of perspiration from his brow crystallize in the shape of diamonds all over the ears, the fingers and the neck of his interesting womankind.

He invites her to share his pleasures, but he saves her the trouble of sharing his anxieties. The burden of life from seven in the morning till seven in the evening rests on his shoulders alone.

Yet, in spite of all this, I have seldom discovered in American women the slightest trace of gratitude to men. The American woman expects a triumphal arch to be erected over each doorway through which she has to pass—and she gets it.

Well, she deserves it.

Almost throughout the length and breadth of the United States, you hear of women seeking to extend the sphere of their influence, women dissatisfied with their lot. But there is no satisfying spoiled children. If they see the moon reflected in a pail of water, they must have it.

I am perfectly convinced that the American woman has secured for herself the best, the softest berth that it was possible to secure in this world.

Let me finish by repeating an exclamation I uttered after my first visit to the United States, twelve years ago: ‘If I could choose my sex and my birthplace, I would shout to the Almighty at the top of my voice: “Oh, please make me an American woman!”‘

THE AMERICAN WOMAN—II

She walks first, Jonathan behind her—The educational system of America explains the idiosyncrasies of the American woman.

The first time that I was in America, some twelve years ago, I one day mentioned to a newspaper reporter that I could not find a cup of tea to please me anywhere in America. The next day a paragraph about me appeared in the paper, headed, ‘Max is going to abuse everything in America.’

A few days later I had an opportunity to mention to another reporter that, however bad meals were in some hotels in the small cities, I could everywhere get a cup of coffee quite as good as in France, if not even better. The next day a paragraph appeared headed: ‘Max wants our dollars.’

I have many times lectured in the United States on women, including a sketch on American women. After the lecture I have generally been introduced to some ladies of the audience, who kindly expressed the desire of shaking hands with me.

Almost every time one or two have taken me aside, and said: ‘I have read in your books and your magazine articles and heard in your lectures all you have to say about American women; but now, tell me, what do you really think of them?’

My dear ladies, there are some men who do occasionally speak the truth, or what they believe to be the truth, and who do say what they mean, and mean what they say.

The English, long ago, warned me that I would not be able to do in America what I had successfully done in England, because the Americans, they said to me, were much more susceptible and sensitive than the English. They were mistaken.

No doubt the Americans had resented, and justly, too, the criticisms of Trollope and Dickens (the latter had to write a permanent apology in the preface of ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’). Criticism that never offends, and praises that never flatter, are, I believe, everywhere acceptable when they are taken in the spirit of fairness and good-humour in which they are expressed. I believe, and firmly believe, the American women to be the most interesting and the most brilliant women in the world, and I do not see why I could not proclaim it from the house-tops if I like, even in America.

They are picturesque, vivacious, natural, stylish, smart, clever, unconventional, and the best educated. They are typical, perfectly labelled.

Take me to a drawing-room in Paris or in London, and, without being introduced to anyone, I think I should be able to pick out all the American women in the room.

Once, after a lecture in England, I received the card of a young American lady who wished to speak to me. She came and brought in her mother, and also a man, who all the time stood in the rear. When we parted, she left, followed by her mother. Then I discovered the man, who said to me most meekly, ‘I’m the father.’ Poor dear man! he looked so small as he emerged from the background!

I cannot help thinking that there exists in some American women a little mild contempt for that poor creature that is called a man.

And how is that in a country where the women receive such delightful, and, for that matter, well-deserved attentions at the hands of the men, and that throughout the length and breadth of the country?

Well, I think the educational system of America explains the phenomenon.

In Europe the sexes are kept apart in youth—I mean at school, and, in France especially, young boys and young girls entertain for one another very strange feelings, most of them founded on ignorance.

In Europe even now the education received by girls cannot be compared to the education received by boys. That’s being changed now—some say improved. H’m! we shall see.

It was not a long time ago that, in England and in France, when a girl could read, write, add, and subtract, name the capitals of Europe, and play ‘The Maiden’s Prayer’ on the piano, her education was finished; she was prepared for the world and ready for her husband—and her neighbours.

Very often I have been invited to be present at the distribution of prizes in large English public schools and colleges. When I was in a girls’ school, I never once failed to hear those poor girls told, and by men, too, that practically the only thing they should think about was to prepare to become one day good wives and good mothers.

I have been many times present at the distribution of prizes in boys’ schools in England, and I know that I never heard those boys told that now and then they might think of preparing to become one day decent fathers and tolerable husbands.

In America things are different. In every grade of educational life, among the masses of the people, boys and girls are educated together, side by side; on each bench a boy, a girl, a boy, a girl.

Now, the official statistics of the Education Department declare that in every State of the Union the number of diplomas and certificates obtained by girls is larger than the number obtained by boys.

When I heard that statement, I said this to myself (kindly follow my little argument): ‘Is it not just possible that the young American boys, when they saw what those girls next to them could do, said to themselves, “Heaven! who would have thought so?”‘

Is it not also possible that the young American girls, when they saw what those boys next to them could do, exclaimed, ‘Good gracious! is that all?’

Does not that, to a certain extent, explain to you the respect that young boys acquire at school for young girls, and perhaps, also, that little mild absence of respect that girls get for boys? I believe there is something in it.

Ah, my dear European men, who clamour at the top of your voices for the higher education of women, be careful! You will be found out, and, like your fellow-men of America, by-and-by you will have to take the back-seat.

THE AMERICAN WOMAN—III

Opinions and impressions — An answer to criticism.

Whenever I read a testimonial given to a candidate for some vacant post, I invariably take it for granted that the candidate does not possess the virtues, attainments, or qualities which are not mentioned in that testimonial.

This must have evidently been what that clever American writer, Mrs. Winifred Black, thought when she read an article of mine on American women which appeared in the Editorial section of the New York Sunday Journal some time ago. My admiration for American women is, I think, pretty well known to the public, but more particularly to my most intimate friends. In that article I said: ‘I firmly believe the American women to be the most fascinating, the most interesting, and the most brilliant women in the world; and I do not see why I could not proclaim it from the housetops, if I like, even in America.’ And after mentioning the respect which woman inspires in American men of all classes, the liberty she enjoys, the attentions that are lavished upon her, I concluded the article by exclaiming: ‘If I could choose again my sex and my birthplace, I would shout to the Almighty at the top of my voice: “Oh, please make me an American woman!”‘

‘Now,’ exclaims Mrs. Winifred Black, ‘look between the words of that cleverly constructed sentence, and he who runs may read that Max O’Rell means to say in the still small voice of his innermost convictions: “Make me anything on earth except an American man!”‘

‘And,’ she goes on, ‘our friend is covering himself with well-earned glory, telling us all about the American woman. “She is beautiful, clever, adored, a queen”; but he does not mention that she is good, honest, true, unselfish, loving. Not a syllable about her heart and her soul. Do you know why? Because Max O’Rell thinks that the American woman has neither heart nor soul.’

Oh, oh! my dear lady, how quickly you set to work and jump at conclusions!

Mrs. Winifred Black evidently believes that when I propose the toast, ‘The American ladies—God bless them!’ I whisper under my breath all the time: ‘The gentlemen—God help them!’

Now, madam, let me tell you that this is witty, smart, but not fair criticism. If I ever should have the honour of being introduced to you, I would say to you: ‘When a foreigner attempts to describe the character of the people he visits, he either receives impressions, if he keeps his eyes fairly well open, or he forms opinions, if he resides in that country for a long time or happens to be a born conceited idiot. Impressions are not opinions. Impressions mean nothing more than this: how a nation strikes a foreigner who pays a short visit to it. You see a town for a day, you meet a person for ten minutes. That town, that person, has left an impression on you, but you hold no opinion on either.

I know a charming little book on Denmark, honestly entitled by its author, ‘A Week in Denmark.’ Now, surely you would not expect to find in such a book a study of the institutions of Denmark or opinions on the idiosyncrasies of the Danish people. You would not expect the writer to tell you whether the Danish women have or have not a heart and a soul. No, you would expect to find an impression such as the following, which I find in that delightful, chatty, and unpretentious little volume: ‘The Danish women wear the national colours of France—blue eyes, white complexion, and red lips.’ I have been six times in the United States. I have seen the whole continent from New York to San Francisco, from British Columbia to Louisiana, but all the time I have been on the move, seldom spending two days in the same town. How could I form opinions worth repeating?

The qualities which, for instance, I may have discovered in American women are superficial ones—I mean outward ones, those that would be noticed by the casual visitor—brilliancy, conversational power, beautiful figures, attractive, intelligent faces, smartness in dress, gait, and carriage. To get at their hearts and their souls, I should have to settle in the country, and for years and years live among the people.

THE HUSBAND OF THE AMERICAN WOMAN

The telephone and the ticker—The most useful of domestic animals—Money-making—Loneliness of the women—A reminiscence of Chicago.

On the whole, I believe that there is no country where men and women go through life together on such equal terms as in France. The wife follows her husband everywhere; she is the companion of his pleasures as well as of his hardships. She works with him, takes her vacation with him, and when they have amassed a little fortune that insures independence, they knock off work together and enjoy life quietly for the rest of their days. In business, the wife is the clerk of her husband, often his cashier, always his partner. She is consulted by him in the investment of their savings. It is a little firm—Monsieur, Madame and Co.

In England, the wife does not share the hardships of her husband, and not always his pleasures. She is seldom consulted in important matters.

What often astonishes us in Europe is to see a crowd of handsome and clever women, whom America sends to brighten up society, and who reappear in London and Paris every year with the regularity of the swallows. The London season, from the beginning of May to July 25, the Paris season, from the beginning of April to June 10, are absolutely run by them. You meet them everywhere, at dinner-parties, ‘At Homes,’ and the play. You conclude that they must be married, because they are styled Mrs. and not Miss, but whether they are wives, widows, or divorcées, you rarely think of inquiring, and you go on enjoying their society, even their friendship, year after year, without knowing whether there exists, somewhere in America, a Mr. So-and-so or not.

It was in America only, on calling on my lady friends whose acquaintance I had made in Europe, that I discovered the existence of their husbands. I found them very much alive, having for the companions of their joys and sorrows the telephone and the ticker.

Now, an impression (not an opinion, much less a conviction) to be formed from all this is that the American woman, with all her physical beauty and intellectual attainments, is not always a woman whose characteristic traits are devotion, unselfishness, and self-sacrifice. But it is not her fault if this should be the case, and I have no reason to suppose that it is. In a community, woman is what man makes her. So long as men’s first consideration is business and money-making, so long as they consider clubs the proper place to seek relief in from the pursuits and hardships of everyday life, so long as wives are practically left to themselves to make the best of the long leisures of the day, the women will study how best they can arrange for themselves a life of comfort, ease and pleasure.

Is there any other country where you will find women able to enjoy life without the companionship of men? They have come to an understanding among themselves. They will have lunch, dinner-parties, where no male guest will be seen, and they will have a grand time. They try to please each other, and an American woman will use as much coquetry to win a woman as a French woman will use to win a man. Is there any other country where you see so many women’s clubs?

Women’s clubs? The idea!

Yet that American woman has male friends. She is a delightful chum and good fellow, the only woman in the world who can have such male friends, ‘pals’ without the least misconstruction, the least objectionable whisperings on the subject. She calls those male friends by their Christian names in speaking of them, although she invariably mentions her husband as Mr. John B. Smith.

The American men are the most devoted of husbands, but they are not under the influence of their women. They indulge them in all their whims and luxuries, but their status in life is to be their women’s husbands—I will not say upper servants, but domestic animals, not pets, of undeniable usefulness, who work at the sweat of their brows to keep in luxury the most lovely, interesting and expensive womankind in the world.

Some years ago, I was spending a Sunday afternoon in the house of a young married man in Chicago who, I was told, possessed twenty millions. The poor fellow! It was the twenty millions which possessed him. He had a most beautiful and interesting wife, and the loveliest little girl of three or four years of age that I ever set my eyes on. That lovely little girl was kind enough to take to me at once—there’s no accounting for taste! We had a little flirtation in the distance at first. By-and-by, she came toward me, nearer and nearer, then she stopped in front of me, and looked at me, hesitating, with her finger in her pretty little mouth. I knew what she wanted, and I said to her: ‘That’s all right; come on.’ She jumped on my knees, settled herself comfortably and asked me to tell her stories. I started at once. Now, you understand, I was not allowed to stop; but I took breath, and I said to her:

‘Does not your papa tell you long stories on Sundays?’

That lovely little round face grew sad and quite long.

‘Oh no,’ she said; ‘papa is too tired on Sundays.’

A few weeks after I left Chicago that man was taken ill with a disease not uncommon in America, a disease that starts at the top of your head and takes two or three years to kill you in a lunatic asylum, among drivelling idiots and imbeciles.

A couple of years later, being in Chicago again, I made inquiries and learned that the poor fellow was expected to exist a few weeks, perhaps a few months longer.

What a pity, I thought, that beautiful woman had not enough influence over that good man to stop him!

Do not offer me twenty millions at that price. No twenty millions can cure the disease which afflicted that American.

Put a little girl of three on my knees on Sundays, and I will tell her stories from sunrise and go on till sunset, even if I thus run the risk of being prosecuted by the Lord’s Day Observance Society.

“Female Aristocracy” germinating in American schools in 1900

In the year 1900 F.E. DeYoe and C. H. Thurber articulated the following concerns in an article for The School Review entitled, “Where Are the High School Boys?” According to DeYoe and Thurber, a school system that served more girls than boys was a school system headed for disaster.

American schools in 1900

“It is the people’s college, and yet it is obvious that from this people’s college the boys are, for some reason or other, turning away. During most of this century we have been agitating the question of higher education for women. Possibly we have neglected a little to attend to the higher education of boys. Certainly, if we are not to have a comparatively ignorant male proletariat opposed to a female aristocracy, it is time to pause and devise ways and means for getting more of our boys to attend the high school.

We have the anomaly of schools attended chiefly by girls though planned exclusively for boys. A half century ago girls were reluctantly admitted to the high schools and academies as the simplest and most inexpensive way of meeting the cry for justice to women in educational advantages. Now we find the girls apparently driving the boys out of these very schools.”

[F.E. DeYoe and C. H. Thurber, 1900]

 

Natural gynocentrism fallacy

This expanded Wiki4men article outlines the ‘natural gynocentrism fallacy,’ a concept coined by Hanna Wallen. – Ed.

The Natural gynocentrism fallacy refers to the belief that sexually mature women are the most important unit of the human species due to the role they play in reproduction – ie. it is a belief in which women are assumed to be more valuable to human society and to human relationships than are men and children. A corollary assumption is that women’s lives and wants should be prioritized over those of men and children. Natural gynocentrism involves a denial of the fact that all adult humans, including women, are child-centric, gene-centric, and utilitarian toward that end, and a denial that women’s evolutionary value is thus as an instrument of the child’s creation and protection and not because her gender is valued per se outside this utilitarian function.

Successful pregnancies, the proposed motive for a lifelong prioritization of women, typically occupied around 5% of a woman’s life in recent history, and less than 2% of lifespan today if women choose to have any children.1 When breast feeding and infant care are added to the equation these percentages can be extended marginally, however in the context of traditional extended families who share care of older children this still leaves the majority of women’s life-span without rationale for gynocentric prioritizing or pedestalizing. Even in the short female life-spans of women during paleolithic and neolithic periods a significant percentage of these women did live into old age and beyond reproductive usefulness (NB. averaging out infant deaths with deaths in old age gives a misleading impression that all women died at 30 years of age).2

Individuals perpetuating the argument that human culture “can’t overcome natural gynocentrism” have failed to see that women’s role in reproduction is actually the opposite of gynocentrism, and that women’s evolutionary role involves treating women like men – ie. that women are only important because of what they can (and/or are expected to) do as utensils for perpetuation of the species.

Hannah Wallen, who coined the phrase natural gynocentrism, illustrates the fallacy with the following example:

An example that demonstrates this is in a disaster movie where a family is on the mountainside of a volcano that is erupting, and they’re trying to escape down the mountain. They take a boat through a waterway only to discover it’s acidic. They’ve lost their ability to propel the boat and the liquid is eating through it. Grandma sacrifices herself to save the rest of the family, and she can because she’s done having babies, while the other adults in the boat are actively involved in raising children. So-called “natural gynocentrism” is about children and does not contribute to or make inevitable the irrational gynocentrism we see in modern culture.3

Wallen summarises that gynocentrism is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, is not inevitable, and is something that can be corrected. She states that historical gynocentric attitudes that have been been treated as natural and as the reason why gynocentrism could never be eliminated are false, and the reality is that women (and men) have child-centric & gene-centric attitudes.4

References:

[1] Fertility Rates, Our World In Data
[2] Hunter-gatherers lived nearly as long as we do but with limited access to healthcare
[3] Twitter comment, Apr 21, 2023
[4] Private communication (April 2023)

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See also: Bio-gynocentrism: Turning Science Into Goddess Worship

‘Female Aristocracy’ Long Observed In The Anglosphere

Female Aristocracy in English prisons in 1896:

The following is from a Letter To The editor of Reynolds Newspaper in 1896 titled ‘A Privileged And Pampered Sex:

SIR,–A paragraph in your issue of the week before last stated that oakum-picking as a prison task had been abolished for women and the amusement of dressing dolls substituted. This is an interesting illustration of the way we are going at present, and gives cause to some reflection as to the rate at which a sex aristocracy is being established in our midst. While the inhumanity of our English prison system, in so far as it affects men, stands out as a disgrace to the age in the eyes of all Europe, houses of correction for female convicts are being converted into agreeable boudoirs and pleasant lounges. [full newspaper article here]

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Female Aristocracy in American schools in 1900:

In the year 1900 F.E. DeYoe and C. H. Thurber articulated concerns in an article for The School Review which asked, “Where Are the High School Boys?” According to DeYoe and Thurber, a school system that served more girls than boys was a school system headed for disaster. They wrote:

“It is the people’s college, and yet it is obvious that from this people’s college the boys are, for some reason or other, turning away. During most of this century we have been agitating the question of higher education for women. Possibly we have neglected a little to attend to the higher education of boys. Certainly, if we are not to have a comparatively ignorant male proletariat opposed to a female aristocracy, it is time to pause and devise ways and means for getting more of our boys to attend the high school.

We have the anomaly of schools attended chiefly by girls though planned exclusively for boys. A half century ago girls were reluctantly admitted to the high schools and academies as the simplest and most inexpensive way of meeting the cry for justice to women in educational advantages. Now we find the girls apparently driving the boys out of these very schools.”

[F.E. DeYoe and C. H. Thurber, 1900]

* * *

Female Aristocracy in American Society in 1909:

The following is from the The Independent which reported a push to set up a female aristocracy in America. The article was titled The New Aristocracy:

“To be successful in the cultivation of culture a country must have a leisure class,” says the editor. “We Americans recognise this fact, but we are going about the getting of this leisure class in a new way.

“In Europe the aristocracy is largely relieved from drudgery in order that they may cultivate the graces of life. In America the attempt is being made to relieve the women of all classes from drudgery, and we are glad to see that some of them at least are making good use of the leisure thus afforded them. It is a project involving unprecedented daring and self-sacrifice on the part of American men, this making an aristocracy of half the race. That it is possible yet remains to be proved. Whether it is desirable depends upon whether this new feminine aristocracy avoids the faults of the aristocracy of the Old World, such as frivolousness and snobbishness.”  [Source: Article, Kalgoorlie Miner, 5 January 1910– Original source: The Independent, Volume 67, 1909]

* * *

Female Aristocracy in American Society in 1929:

The following is a journalist’s response to Constance Eaton’s 1929 claim that the sexes have been crafted into social classes – “aristocratic women, and male serfs.”

“THE AMERICAN MALE has always had a tendency to put woman on a pedestal, even if he is not so poetic about it as were the heroes of the age of chivalry. The modern ‘equality of the sexes,’ instead of doing away with this, has only changed its manner of expression. Woman may stand on the same political plane with man, but spiritually he considers her as remote as the stars. Mentally and morally she is supposed to belong to a higher sphere.”  At least that it what Constance Eaton, who has been making observations a la Keyserling, Sigfreid, Tolstoi, and others, for readers of The Daily Telegraph of London, believes she has discovered in what she terms America’s sex aristocracy. It makes interesting reading to write that woman is considered mentally superior to man, in America. This may be true of the women, but in my experience I have found few men who held such a view. The burden of Miss Eaton’s thesis is that man earns the money, woman spends it, woman forms the only leisure class, and that woman has spent her life cultivating herself. Man is abject before woman’s superiority.

Female Aristocracy in International Politics – 2011:

The following was penned by Marjolijn Februari:

“Actually it’s arguing for a dictatorship, the dictatorship of the vagina, a kind of sexual feudalism which you wouldn’t want our international relations to be governed by in the future… those women aren’t the least concerned about war and peace as a matter of principle; all they’re concerned about is securing their own interests.”

Female Aristocracy in Anglosphere Society – 2011:

By Adam Kostakis:

“It would not be inappropriate to call such a system sexual feudalism, and every time I read a feminist article, this is the impression that I get: that they aim to construct a new aristocracy, comprised only of women, while men stand at the gate, till in the fields, fight in their armies, and grovel at their feet for starvation wages. All feminist innovation and legislation creates new rights for women and new duties for men; thus it tends towards the creation of a male underclass.”

“But what are the women’s rights advocated today? The right to confiscate men’s money, the right to commit parental alienation, the right to commit paternity fraud, the right to equal pay for less work, the right to pay a lower tax rate, the right to mutilate men, the right to confiscate sperm, the right to murder children, the right to not be disagreed with, the right to reproductive choice and the right to make that choice for men as well. In an interesting legal paradox, some have advocated – with success – that women should have the right to not be punished for crimes at all. The eventual outcome of this is a kind of sexual feudalism, where women rule arbitrarily, and men are held in bondage, with fewer rights and far more obligations.

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See Also: USA, champion of extreme gynocentrism